Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Your Chance To Sound Off

OK, residents of Plaza-Midwood, Dilworth, Cotswold, Myers Park. Here’s your chance to sound off.

A couple of Plaza-Midwood residents gave me a short tour the other day, of Ashland Avenue, where a hugely out-of-scale house is going up next to the rest of the street’s modest bungalows. They were outraged at what they considered the lack of taste. Can’t anyone do anything, they asked?

And a resident of Carmel Acres Drive copied the newspaper with her e-mail to the mayor, in which she complains about “a 7,000-square-foot house (or rather hotel)” that is “totally out of proportion for the neighborhood.”

“It seems,” she wrote, “that builders can do whatever they want, and they are compromising the integrity of our beautiful older neighborhoods.”

What can you do? Here’s what’s happening in another booming Southern city:

Earlier in May, the DeKalb County (Ga.) commissioners voted to allow two neighborhoods to prevent houses taller than 28 feet to be built within their subdivisions. The article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution called them “Hummer houses.”

The two neighborhoods, Meadowcliff and Diamond Head, will be covered by a special zoning overlay district.

As you’d expect, it’s a controversial issue, and one developer who has built some of the big houses plans to sue over the zoning for Meadowcliff, the AJC reports. The mayor of Atlanta earlier this year issued a temporary moratorium on construction in five neighborhoods hit by teardowns, to provide a cooling-off period. But the city council didn’t extend the moratorium. City planners are reviewing residential zoning codes to see what could be done.

What's the city's best course of action? Some people say, “Nothing, it’s the market at work.” Others say, “That ugly monstrosity has affected my property – it ruins my view, and it’s so out of place it ruins the look of the whole street. They shouldn’t be allowed to ruin other people's property that way.”

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

I think they are pretty.

Anonymous said...

The issue isn't the City Council.....but the neighborhoods...Myers park tried to stave off the HUGE houses with a historical designation, but not everyone wanted it.....so now they suffer. New Neighborhoods can add house size limitations to their charters......can't older neighborhoods do something simlilar?

Anonymous said...

Can't happen in Dilworth, because the historic district won't allow anything way out of scale. There have been marginal houses, sure, but most look pretty good and eventually blend in pretty well. Historic district ain't for everyone though. Most folks would rather have a megahouse next door than someone telling them what kind of window shutters they can use.

Anonymous said...

The Dilworth "Historic" district has been a weak layer of protection at best but it has done a decent job. It will be interesting to see how the replacement of the teardown on Tremont turns out. The skeleton looks rather looming. Take a drive down Mcdonald, Magnolia etc in unprotected "Southern Dilworth" according to the Observer. Every other friggin house is a teardown/Mcmansion. Its truly nauseuating.

Anonymous said...

My neighbor has painted his house any ugly color. Why wont the government do something? I think the more the government gets involved with fixing neighborhood problems the better neighborhoods run. I don’t understand why the government wont protect us from people with bad taste? These houses’s are unsafe for “our look” and is causing a fashion disaster all over the neighborhood. Someone down the road had the audacity to put “lawn gnomes” in there yard, what does he think –that it’s his yard and he can do want every he wants? We own his yard and the mayor has the final say of what should go on there. Just because you own the property does not give you the right to do with it as you please-image what society would be like if didn’t have to ask your neighbors for permission and then have to get approval from the city council. We would have tacky (aka: personality) everywhere

1979Heel said...

In general, it's much more preferable for Charlotte's close-in neighborhoods to be so desirable that people want to build new dwellings in them rather than move ever further into the suburbs. That said, most people think the castle at Queens Road West and Princeton is completely out of place, even sitting on 2 lots as it does.

I confess to wondering how big is big enough for some people. Still, at least Charlotte's core is thriving. Maybe it won't take much talking and blogging about the upsetting of the aesthetic landscape for new builders to realize the value in both new construction and visual harmony.

rebecca said...

When we lived in my old close-in neighborhood a "yankee" family moved in and did not tear down the house they bought (luckily) but they did chop down every single tree including a beautiful giant magnolia, amazing live oaks and these really cool ginkgo trees and rare japanese maples...I actually came upon the site while walking one one morning as the nieghbors were standing there agape and several were actually weeping...The owners had planned to double the square footage of the house straight up to the street and all the way to the property line but scrapped the plan after the outcry...meanwhile my beloved little ranch was leveled and a huge monstrosity is going up in its place which uses the entire footprint of the nearly 3/4 acre lot. I predict that in a few years in-town Charlotte will have very few of the old graceful southern houses left. The prices/taxes are so high now that only the rich and tasteless can afford to live there. There was one house near us my husband called 'the HMO' - it looks like a big square Doctors office. 8,000 sq ft for a retired couple! But you can't legislate taste...or lack thereof.

evil twin said...

Why is it that being rich and having good taste seem to be mutually exclusive lately? Some of these houses are almost comical looming there on their little lots. I wish someone who owns one of these McMansions would write in and explain what it is they are thinking... do they really 'think they are pretty'?

Anonymous said...

A house with a footp[rint that uses the entirety of a nearly 3/4 acre lot, Rebecca? 3/4 of an acre is 32,670 sq ft. Must be some house those Yankees are building!

Anonymous said...

Could we please take it easy on the "yankee" comments. There are plenty of examples of the same situations that involve people from Charlotte and the rest of the south, the mid-west and the west. This is not some sort of evil plot by the yankees to overtake neighborhoods with McMansions and cut down all the pretty trees.

But so what if people want to build to the property lines. It's their right as property owners and if they can afford it, there is nothing in place right now to stop them. Do i agree with it, not necessarily, but unfortunately there is little anyone can do at the moment to stop it. Until the neighborhoods can find an effective way to combat the problem, which can be very difficult with infringement on property rights, etc., then we have to sit and watch. But let's leave the whole "yankee" factor out of it. It has nothing to do with where people are from. People from all over the US build these monstrosities in the older neighborhoods of Charlotte and other cities across the country. And i'm pretty sure some of those people who are doing it here grew up here.

Anonymous said...

I would rather live next to a McMansion then the six new portable class rooms (that front the main road) CMS is putting on the land they just clear-cut.

Rick said...

Many of those Yankees are moving here with massive amounts of equity in their homes from DC, Boston, and NYC due to the run up in prices over the past few years.

If they don't spend it on their new houses here, then they have to give a big chunk to govco in the form of capital gains taxes.

Even though I know that would make most of the I've-already-got-mine-but-you-shouldn't-have-yours crowd happy, it's just not going to happen. Since land and houseing is relatively cheap here in Charlotte, those newcomers are either going to spend that money on big houses out in the suburbs or big houses that they build in the city. Either way, it's going to be a big house.

So which peeves you more, sprawl or teardowns?

Anonymous said...

I'm just not sure what's the origination of this idea that we have a Constitutional right to tear down a historic house and build an out-of-scale house that negatively affects the rest of the neighborhood. Local historic district designation seems to be the ONLY way to at least mitigate this trend a bit. My husband and I recently moved out of Plaza-Midwood, in part because we felt that so much that has made Plaza-Midwood unique is being destroyed by these massive tear-downs and mega-additions that destroy the original integrity of the house. Even if one believes (rightly or wrongly) they need an extra 2,000 square feet or so, there are creative ways to do this programatically without destroying the character of the original house that makes the neighborhood unique and interesting. Surely, surely, our only two choices are not sprawl or tearing down our historic neighborhoods??

Anonymous said...

You hit the nail on the head Rick.

Anonymous said...

"I'm just not sure what's the origination of this idea that we have a Constitutional right to tear down a historic house and build an out-of-scale house that negatively affects the rest of the neighborhood. "

It's fairly obvious that the Constitution is silent about such things. What may not be as obvious to you is that the Constitution does not grant rights at all, so that silence is not an indication that you have no such right. What it does do -indeed it's principal function- is delineate what government may do. And you will look long and fruitlessly to find a power given by the Constitution to government that allows to involve itself in questions of the propriety of the design and size of a house.

I am not mary newsom said...

This has to be one of my favorite subjects....

Let's just call this 'pee pee' envy.

One day I am a happy moderately rich white dude living in Myers Park or Dilworth or wherever, feeling pretty good about myself.

Then one day, someone has the GALL to build a bigger, spiffier, and yes, more expensive house near mine.

Now I have this daily reminder that I am NOT the richest guy on earth, and that my pee pee is not as big as I once thought it was.

Won't da GubMent step in an DO SOMETHING so I don't have to feel so inferior???


This is tired topic. Mary Newsom must be running out of ideas to revert back to one of her old class warfare topics such as this.

BTW - I love the language:

Myers Park is 'suffering' because their property values are going through the roof.

Dilworth is doing a 'good job' protecting itself from those hideous new houses.

I have bad news for ya fellas, there is always someone out there with a fatter wallet, a faster car, a prettier wife and a larger you-know-what.

Get over it.

Anonymous said...

Well, what can you expect from a place so pretentious as to be called Meyers Park when it isn't a park at all. (For the memory deficient and/or sarcasm impaired, that is an example of the latter based on Ms. Newsom's earlier derision of a new development that is described by the developer as as a "village" in spite of the fact that is is, of course, not a village at all.)

Just Say No To Socialism said...

For the answer to the question of Constitutional Right to enjoy property read the Fifth Amendment. The right to property was central to our founding; it occupied a vital place in the system of free government the founders built. The right to property was an instrument to defend common people from the power of the establishment.

In our time the right to property is widely misunderstood, above all by liberals who do not share the vision of justice that animated our Constitution. For the past hundred years the attack on private property has been central to the Progressive assault on the Constitution. Liberals portray the constitutional protection of private property by the founders as the weapon of an elite interested in preserving its privilege. Not so, The American Revolution was in part a rebellion against the feudal order, remnants of which still prevailed in Great Britain. In the feudal order all property belonged to the King; the King retained ownership but conditionally granted the use of property to his subjects.

By contrast, the idea that men possessed the right to acquire and enjoy property separate and apart from the prerogative of sovereign government was one of the "unalienable rights" grounded in "the laws of Nature and Nature's God" at the heart of the American Revolution. In the founders' view, property rights did not emanate from government. Rather, they emanated from the nature of man, and it was the function of government to protect the rights conferred on man by nature. Jefferson characterized property rights as "the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone [of] the free exercise of industry and the fruits acquired by it." The right to property was the critical right for the founders; it made property rights the friend of the poor by allowing them to earn and safeguard wealth ("the fruits acquired by" work).

The founders specific protections to the property of Americans in the fundamental law of the United States for the sake of freedom. The freedom to exercise and profit from one's abilities without regard to caste or class was in the view of the founders the essence of freedom.
As James Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers, "the first object of government" is the "protection of the diversity in the faculties [abilities] of men, from which the rights of property originate." In the eyes of the founders, the protection of property rights was a bulwark for the poor in assuring them that the wealth earned with the sweat of their brow could not arbitrarily be expropriated by the heavy hand of government.

The founders' thought that majority rule was susceptible to tyranny and that the protection of property rights was an indispensable condition for the preservation of freedom and for the growth of national wealth. The founders observed that tyrannical rule and material scarcity had by and large been the fate of man through the ages. They saw the confiscation of property by government in the name of the sovereign power of the state as an old and sorry story. Through the protection of property rights they aimed to forge a new order of the ages. It lies to us to regain their understanding.

Anonymous said...

Is this the United States or the Soviet Union? There's a reason why one still exists and the other doesn't: PRIVATE PROPERTY. If you own the land, pay taxes on the land, then YOU CONTROL THE LAND. Not Mayor Fratboy and his band of socialist buffoons. If you whiny little pantywaists are envious of someone who's worked hard enough to have the money to build a bigger house, tough!

Burt said...

Why is it that everyone who sells their house for huge profits then turnaround and complain about what the new owners do to/with the house. Why do we blame the buy? We should hold contempt for sellers. If people never sold their houses We wouldn’t have to worry about tear-downs……..The real villains in this story are the people making money by selling out the neighborhoods and then feeling guilty and blaming others….see the anonymous poster af 6/01/2006 10:44:59 AM

rebecca said...

Burt, the reason people "sellout" is due to high taxes - if a teardown/rebuild next door is valued at a mill, your litle ranch next door is suddenly valued by the city at a half mill. So if you can't pay a tax bill that goes up fivefold in one year you are forced out/forced to sell. And flippantly saying "oh you made money what are you complaining about" is ridiculous - I did not ask to make money, and you only "make" money if you sell! I wanted to grow old in my litle ranch. And where do you go with that "windfall" when everything else if now half a mill as well? You pay all of your "profit" on crappy house in a bad nieghborhood. I don't feel guilty about what happened to my old house -- it feel good old fashioned resentment. And not because I wish I had a bigger "pee pee" (per i am not mary newsom) -- I was perfectly content with my little tiny "pee pee" before the govco tax ax chopped it off.

Take Care What You Ask For said...

Rebecca almost nails it when she laments high valuations and property taxes forcing her to “sell-out”. Government’s high confiscatory tax rate to support all manner of non-governmental spending like Racing Hall of Fames, Basketball Palaces and Whitewater Theme Parks is the root cause of her displacement. With or without a large house next door Rebecca’s valuation and tax rate would rise ever faster to support growth in government. The solution to Rebecca’s issue is not more government regulation of non-governmental affairs as the liberals would have us think. The solution is returning government to it’s rightful place as provider of public safety, roads, education, public health and a lawful environment in which to conduct commerce.

erin said...

one person's "ugly" is another person's dream home. The last thing I as a property owner would want is for someone else to dictate what I can and can't do to my own house.